The United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, favorably reported HR 906, the "REPAIR Act," to the full committee for future consideration. After a robust, bipartisan discussion about the importance of this legislation and ideas about how to better protect consumers as well as the independent aftermarket, the REPAIR Act cleared this initial hurdle without objection from any Member of the Subcommittee.
HR 906, commonly known as the "REPAIR Act, favorably moved to future consideration on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, after a review by the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce, of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It’s the furthest down the road it's advanced, said Auto Care Association President and CEO Bill Hanvey, who sat down with Ratchet+Wrench to discuss the bill’s latest movement.
Ratchet+Wrench: You had a Right to Repair press release today. What was in the release today and what's the reaction?
Bill Hanvey: Well, the reaction is cautious optimism and the fact that we are advancing with the REPAIR Act is really good news for our industry. We understand that work is not done. There's going to be a lot of horse trading, that will have to happen, but this is the furthest that we've advanced this. We greatly appreciate the subcommittee's support, and we are willing to come to a common agreement, and we're common legislation that benefits everybody.
R+W: The memo today, is that a result of the time and the Legislative Days in D.C. in September?
Hanvey: Well, we'd like to think it's a direct result of that. We had 300 people on the hill immediately following that. We had our subcommittee hearing, in which Kathleen Callahan, the shop owner from Florida testified. She did a tremendous job on the industry's behalf. And subsequent to that, we had the committee subcommittee hearing today.
R+W: Do you feel like you're gaining—as you have more touch points like today and the various conferences and speaking you're doing—more traction and more momentum?
Hanvey: Without question? So, the industry is getting involved. We're writing letters to the subcommittee, and it's just been that the grassroots activity has been tremendous from the industry.
R+W: How has advocacy among shop owners been this year within your membership and maybe even outside of that?
Hanvey: Increasing, and they're the key to is of the success for going forward to activate the shop owners, and between scanning the letters and making the shop owners aware that this is an issue that is going to directly affect their future. They've become much more actively involved.
R+W: Why is it increasingly more important, especially now, for shop owners to make their voices heard, as opposed to relying on groups like ACA or others to be their voice?
Hanvey: Our 4.7 million employees that are in our industry are our key. The automakers have more lobbying money. They have more lobbyists. They have more lawyers. But what they don't have is the folks that are in our industry. So, we're actively soliciting every member of this industry that this is their battle to win, so even though we may not have as much money, we have these great men and women in our industry, that have a voice. That's the important thing is to make them feel comfortable expressing their voice. Make them aware of the issue. Make them aware of the ramifications of that issue. And then obviously educating them and then having them activate their voice.
R+W: I was talking to Dwayne (Myers), and he was talking about how state and local legislators are very interested in hearing from shop owners; they want to come to the shop. How do you persuade shop owners to understand that their legislators do want to hear from them?
Hanvey: Well, and I think a good example of that is our legislative summit. Maybe not on the shop owner side, although we did have many shop owners that were there. But we truly did make a difference from when we had those 300 people in Washington this past September. That's 100 people more than we had in 2019, so we are incrementally growing the awareness of becoming involved.
R+W: Is it important for shop owners to also educate their teams about Right to Repair as well?
Hanvey: Not only their teams but the consumer as well because you that's ultimately where this decision affects. So, we are actively trying to provide the tools that the shop owners need to educate their customers, so we put together an entire toolkit for the shop owners to use to communicate to their customers. It includes the QR code, it includes posters that they can print out and put in their shops or any other informational materials. So, we've invested a lot for our shop owners in our industry to take advantage of to communicate that message down to the consumer.
R+W: Can I talk to you about Maine for a second? Do you foresee that if you have the same level of success in Maine as you did in Massachusetts, they’ll still get the same result with automakers fighting the same way they did in Massachusetts and taking it to court?
Hanvey: Without question, and the one thing that they are is predictable. So, we understand that, and we're prepared, and now we are going to focus on enforcement of the law in Massachusetts. So, get ready.
R+W: I know Massachusetts said they were going to enforce law as of June. Is that in the works? Have they started to enforce the law and has it been upheld?
R+W: Are there other states that are starting to jump into Right to Repair—that you can speak of?
Hanvey: To be announced, but that's a good question. But the message is that we are going to be relentless in our pursuit of this until it gets done.
R+W: Let's talk about the other two Right to Repair initiatives. There was a lot of buzz around the Tesla charging standard where everyone was fighting the Tesla charging standard, they didn't want it. Then suddenly, Nissan took it, and then Hyundai took it, and then the dominoes started to drop and some states started to adopt the Tesla charging standard. Do you think that automotive Right to Repair will need some sort of leverage like that whether it needs to be agriculture who gets pushed over or electronics gets pushed over first to make the wave to create the momentum to get it all done?
Hanvey: It's interesting. You look around the globe, Canada's in the process of passing a universal Right to Repair initiative. The European Union same thing. Australia same thing. So again, that only benefits us, but we feel the need to isolate automotive and commercial vehicles—I don't want to leave that out either (since) a significant portion of this bill is the necessity for isolated mobility.
R+W: Now the Legislative Days, is that something you've done in the past as well, or it's something you've done this year for the first time and you're going forward with it?
Hanvey: No, we've done it in the past, but what was different about this year is that we had a bill to hang our hat on. So, we had HR 906. It gathered our memberships have we had something tangible to go to the hill with and say we want you to support this bill. We've done other legislative summits in the past, but this one was most successful because we had something to hang our hat on.
R+W: As far as 2024 is concerned, what are some of your hopes that you'd like to see, you know, within the industry, whether it's more advocacy, whether it's more participation, more activity, more people come into the summits, what do you want to see in 2024, just from the auto care industry as a whole?
Hanvey: All of the above, but in all sincerity, engagement by the members is an initiative from our association. You know, we provide benefits, business benefits, advocacy benefits, networking benefits. So, it's an initiative from our team to make sure that various levels of our members are participating in the association.
R+W: Lastly, let's talk about AAPEX. Do you have a ballpark of what the attendance was on both sides—attendees and exhibitors?
Hanvey: A record attendance. I can't give you the numbers yet. We're still working on those, but what I can tell you is that we've had visitors from 137 different countries, which is phenomenal. It's truly an international show. And just the educational tracks that we're offering, we're going to make AAPEX relevant for everybody in the supply chain.